Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More BHL app ideas

Hero rosellasFollowing on from my previous post on BHL apps and a Twitter discussion in which I appealed for a "sexier" interface for BHL (to which @elywreplied that is what BHL Australia were trying to do), here are some further thoughts on improving BHL's web interface.
Build a new interface
A fun project would be to create a BHL website clone using just the BHL API. This would give you the freedom to explore interface ideas without having to persuade BHL to change its site. In a sense, the app would be provide the persuasion.

Third party annotations
It would be nice if the BHL web site made use of third party annotations. For example, BHL itself is extracting some of the best images and putting them on Flickr. How about if you go to the page for an item in BHL and you see a summary of the images from that item in Flickr? At a glance you can see whether the item has some interesting content. For example, if you go to http://biodiversitylibrary.org/item/109846 you see this:

N2 w1150

which gives you no idea that it contains images like this:

n24_w1150Tables of contents
Another source of annotations is my own BioStor project, which finds articles in scanned volumes in BHL. If you are looking at an item in BHL it would be nice to see a list of articles that have been found in that item, perhaps displayed in a drop down menu as a table of contents. This would help provide a way to navigate through the volume.

Who links to BHL?
When I suggested third party annotations on Twitter @stho002chimed in asking about Wikispecies, Species-ID, ZooBank, etc. These resources are different, in that they aren't repurposing BHL content but are linking to it. It woud be great if a BHL page for an item could display reverse links (i.e., the pages in those external databases that link to that BHL item).

Implementing reverse links (essential citation linking) can be tricky, but two ways to do it might be:
  1. Use BHL web server logs to find and extract referrals from those projects
  2. Perhaps more elegantly, encourage external databases to link to BHL content using an OpenURL which includes the URL of the originating page. OpenURL can be messy, but especially in Mediawiki-based projects such as Wikispecies and Species-ID it would be straightforward to make a template that generated the correct syntax. In this way BHL could harvest the inbound links and display them on the item page.